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Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Masks We Hide Behind



          My oldest and youngest sons have both been very brilliant stage actors throughout their high school years.  In fact, my youngest son is currently a senior in high school and will be performing in “Little Women” this coming weekend.
          Over the years they have played a variety of different rolls in many classic Shakespeare plays, musical such as South Pacific, Thoroughly Modern Millie, My Fair Lady, dramas such as Julius Caesar, murder mysteries, and even one appearance as the lovable lead in Winnie the Pooh (although I won’t reveal any pictures of this one as to not embarrass my son). 

           My oldest son also played a role in a college performance adaptation of The Princess Bride, which was utterly hilarious (he was he hit of the show) & performed a piece in which he portrayed a handicapped child which always moved me to tears and with which he competed at the Nationals in Witchita, Kansas his senior year in high school.
          I have always been fascinated by their performances as they transformed themselves through the magic of make-up, costumes, accents and stage lights into ancient Senators and noblemen, Navy Commanders,
Retired Army Generals,

Chinese Immigrants and so forth.


          My limited acting experience came in Jr. High when I played a dimwitted father in a little known comedy called, “The Rise and Fall of Wilbur’s Empire.”  I got plenty of laughs playing the part of a not-so-smart-and –slow-on-the-uptake dad, although I was probably only good in the role because it came naturally to me!
          I guess thinking about my son’s performances got me wondering about what it is about theater, movies and so forth that interests us and engages our senses so much.  I think part of it is the fact that during the time of the performance or show, we are able to escape into a false reality for a period of time where we don’t have to face the actualities of life.
          Part of the reason may also be that even though many of us may never have acted on stage or in film in our lives, most of us have probably worn “artificial personality masks” of some kind or another in our public lives and interactions.  In essence, we are displaying in public a different kind of personality or traits than we do when we are in private.
          Now I know that we all likely act a little bit different in private than we do in public, and that may not always be a bad thing.  When in the confines of our own home, you may not hesitate to pass gas, scratch an awkward itch or walk around in your underwear – things we hopefully would modify and not display in the public arena.  But that’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about here.
          What I’m thinking about is more of a Phantom of the Opera kind of thing.  Wherein we put on a mask that makes us look dignified, professional, patient, honest and kind...


but then in our private life at home with our family we take off that fake persona and reveal a personality that is more mean, condescending, rude, dishonest, unfaithful or internally hideous.


That leads me to the question about the importance of honesty and integrity.  Integrity is defined by our friends at Merriam-Webster as: 1. The quality of being honest and fair, 2. The state of being complete or whole, 3. Firm adherence to a code of especially moral values: incorruptibility, 4. The quality or state of being complete or undivided: wholeness
          To illustrate this point I will borrow a few images which demonstrate how our beliefs, words and actions align to create integrity at the center of what we do.


          If we are not completely honest with ourselves and allow our actions to differ from our words and beliefs then our lives become less balanced, off-centered, and filled with hollowness or even darkness inside.


          I believe that true happiness and lasting inner peace can only be achieved when all three factors: Actions, Words and Beliefs come into an almost full alignment with each other, and especially when they are based upon the principles of righteousness, love, kindness, service and charity.

          I’m sure that if all of us take a good, long hard look in the mirror and into our hearts, we will all find areas of our lives where the phony masks, drama and fake personality traits could benefit from being stripped away and replaced with who we really are.  Only then can we begin the true transformation which will allow the character on the stage of our lives, to become the actual person we are inside.  And to complete that transformation is a truly brilliant and wonderful performance to behold.